Choi Soon-sil, a close confidante of and powerbroker for President Park Geun-hye, apologized for the political crisis she had caused, which led to the South Korean parliament voting to impeach Park
just over a week ago.
"I'm sorry for causing trouble in society," Choi said, dressed in white prison overalls. "I will participate in the upcoming trial with sincerity."
Choi is charged with abuse of power, coercion, attempted coercion and fraud, the result of an investigation into suggestions Choi was given access to official state documents
Choi's lawyers denied the charges.
Park attempted to apologize for the scandal two months ago, an unprecedented act by a South Korean leader, but after mass protests and the impeachment vote, she has been stripped of her powers.
The country's Constitutional Court will now deliberate the impeachment motion, a process that could take up to 180 days.
Two of Park's former secretaries, An Chong-bum and Chung Ho-sung, who have also been charged, did not appear in court.
Speaking to reporters, 81-year-old Seo Byeong-Young said he had come to "see the face of the witch" for herself. "I used to support Park Geun-Hye but she is stupid and has been cheated by a shaman woman," she said.
Kim Tae-Hong, 37 said he took a week off work for a chance to watch the trial. "I wanted to see the criminal's face for myself," he said.
Members of the public had to draw lots to attend the trial.
Choi accused of forcing donations
Choi has been accused of abusing her relationship with President Park to force large local companies to donate millions of dollars
to two foundations believed to be set up by her.
The allegations emerged after an abandoned computer believed to be Choi's was found by CNN-affiliate JTBC, which contained secret documents.
Park was impeached on December 9 by an overwhelming majority of the South Korean National Assembly, 234 to 56 with six abstentions.
But as South Korean President, Park is immune from prosecution.
While prosecutors want to speak to her as a suspect in the ongoing corruption probe, her attorneys have said she is happy to help but she's too busy to meet with them
Park's approval dropped as low as 4% since the scandal began, while 81% of South Koreans approve of her impeachment.